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Results - Specific Technologies

The following sections provide high-level overviews of how users were able to interact with Documents and the Document List with different assistive technologies. Appendix C contains more detailed reports for each assistive technology. Additionally, a grade has been assigned to each assistive technology based on the following scale:

  • A = a user can fully use all functions of the application
  • B = a user can perform most functions using the prescribed methods of interacting with the application
  • C = a user can perform many functions, but must rely on non-prescribed methods of interacting with the application
  • D = a user can perform some basic functions, but most functions are unavailable or there are other significant problems
  • F = a user cannot use even basic functions of the application

An application is neither considered accessible nor providing equitable access until it receives a grade of A.

Dragon Naturally Speaking

Dragon Naturally Speaking (hereafter referred to as “Dragon”) is speech recognition software that allows users to control their computers with voice commands and also to dictate text directly into applications. It is one option for people with mobility impairments.

Grade: F

Documents was completely unusable with Dragon. The most basic of functions such as dictating text into a document and “clicking” links through verbal commands could not be completed.

High Contrast Mode

High Contrast Mode in Windows will increase the font size of text and change the color scheme to provide more contrast between the foreground and the background colors. It is used by some people with visual disabilities.

Grade: D, on Windows; C on OS X

High Contrast Mode had differing results in Windows and OS X. In Windows the text was easier to read on the screen for the most part; however, many of the controls like the menu buttons became completely unreadable in Windows browsers. The button images were no longer visible and hovering with a mouse over the buttons to reveal the tooltips was the only way to discover their function. In OS X the text was also easier to read, but with some notable exceptions. Some of the user interface elements in OS X became difficult to see in High Contrast Mode. The toolbar menus were visible in OS X where they were not in Windows.

Keyboard-Only Access

Keyboard-only access is trying to use an application using only your keyboard without ever relying on a mouse. Keyboard-only access is a critical test because many assistive technologies interface with computers by mimicking the behavior of a keyboard. Also, many users simply cannot use a mouse and need to interact with an application solely through a keyboard.

Grade: C

Many operations could be completed solely through the keyboard such as entering text and basic formatting through the shortcut keys. A major problem, however, is that keyboard focus is often not visible. This is a key component of successfully using an application with only the keyboard. It allows the user to know where their input (typing text, or clicking a button) will be directed. Another major issue in the Firefox browser is that the application menu (File, Edit, etc.) cannot be accessed by only using the keyboard, thus preventing the user from performing many functions in the application.

Sticky Keys

Sticky Keys is not a product, but rather is a function built into operating systems. Sticky Keys allows users to submit key press combinations in serial as opposed to the normal parallel fashion. For instance, instead of simultaneously pressing Control and V, the user can press the Control key, let go of Control, and then the V key. Sticky Keys is used by some people with mobility impairments.

Grade: A, for Sticky Keys itself, independent of keyboard-only issues

Documents and the Document List did not interfere with Sticky Keys; however, all of the problems raised with keyboard-only access also applied to using Documents with Sticky Keys.

ChromeVox with Chrome

ChromeVox is the built-in screen reader for the Chrome browser and the Chrome OS. It is one of the two recommended configurations from Google for screen reader users. Screen readers are used by some people with visual impairments.

Grade: D (could be a C if instability problems are solved)

Most of the basic functions could be performed using ChromeVox through keyboard shortcuts and the application menu, however, ChromeVox was very buggy, requiring frequent restarts of the browser, or reboots in the case of the Chromebook. One notable problem was that it was difficult to navigate to the toolbar menu (e.g., font drop-down menu and formatting buttons) and use it. There was no documentation for how to access these tools and the method for accessing them was discovered by accident.

There were other problems like the inability to read other users’ comments and any already existing footnotes. Additionally, there were numerous usability problems, such as the inability to determine when the user has actually finished scrolling all the way to the top of the page or easily getting lost when trying to interact with modal windows.

JAWS with Firefox

JAWS is the most popular Windows-based screen reader. This assistive technology and browser combination is also recommended by Google for people with visual impairments.

Grade: D

While basic text editing was possible in JAWS, many functions were unavailable to the user, and navigating the application was quite difficult. Most of the keyboard shortcut keys worked except for one notable exception - access to the application menu. The standard Alt + Shift + F brought up the browser File menu instead of the Documents File menu. Getting to the Documents File menu required using non-standard methods, such as using the Virtual Cursor. Additionally, there were many usability problems like determining font information about text, reading other users’ comments, and knowing when the user had actually scrolled all the way to the top of the document.

Navigation in general with JAWS was quite cumbersome requiring non-standard ways of interacting with applications and requiring users to use JAWS in ways they were not necessarily accustomed to doing. There were also inconsistencies in how the user interface was presented to the user between different tests.

In order for JAWS to function properly in Documents the user must click a link that says “enable screen reader.” This is problematic on two levels. First, the link is not the first item the user comes to in the page. It took pressing Tab 18 times to find this link. Second, it should not be required of the user to make this selection every time when this information can be stored in the user profile and automatically executed when needed.

Read & Write Gold

Read&Write Gold is a software application that assists users in reading and composing text through a series of tools such as highlighted word-by-word text-to-speech reading and spell-checking functions designed for particular learning disabilities. It is not considered an alternative means of interacting with an application, like a screen reader. Rather, it adds a layer of functionality on top of an application to aid the user.

Grade: D

Read & Write Gold does allow users to fully access the functionality of Documents; however, Read&Write Gold’s major functionality was not operable in Documents. These functions include reading text, spell checking and dictionary functions. Some functions did work in Documents such as "Speak As I Type" and word prediction.

ZoomText with Internet Explorer

ZoomText is a screen magnification application that allows users to selectively enlarge portions of their screen, such as the area beneath their mouse. It also will read the text from the page to the user.

Grade: A-

ZoomText was able to perform all the functions within Documents when utilizing its screen magnification ability. The only major function that did not perform as expected was its text reading feature, which kept it from scoring a Grade A. Instead of being able to use the standard method of using the arrow keys to start and stop the reading process, the built-in dedicated reading application had to be used.